Fourteen-year-old Morgan Martens of Wisconsin captured a made-in-the-Midwest championship Sunday in the Junior Iditarod.
Driving a team of 10 dogs from Ryan Redington’s kennel, Martens mushed through 144 snowy miles of trail. He reached the finish line at Martin Buser’s Happy Trails kennel at 1:35 p.m. with dogs that barked, wagged their tails and rolled in the snow upon arrival.
Redington is from Alaska but trains dogs in Wisconsin not far from where Martens’ family lives on a farm in Brule. He and Martens spent this winter running dogs together.
“This year I am super lucky to be learning from Ryan Redington,” Martens said in his race bio. “He is generous, kind and teaches by example. I am privileged to be chosen to run his amazing dog team in the Jr. Iditarod. This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
The 44th running of the Junior Iditarod for mushers younger than 18 began at 10 a.m. Saturday at Knik Lake. A field of 10 teams traveled 73 miles to Yentna Station, where they stopped for a mandatory overnight break of 10 hours, which this year was spent outdoors.
Martens led the way in and out of Yentna, leaving Sunday morning before sunrise. Ahead was another 71 miles of trail, much of it wind-blown.
Sixteen-year-old Kristal Hanson of Anchorage finished second and 17-year-old Anna Coke of Wasilla was third.
Coke, the veteran of three Junior Iditarods, said conditions were rough this year.
“A lot more snow,” she said during the race’s finish-line coverage on Facebook live. “A lot more pulling my sled out of snow drifts, a lot of wind-burn.”
Hanson, another race veteran, said deep snow made travel challenging.
“It was rough. It was super wind-blown,” she said on Facebook live. “Sometimes it was up to waist-deep.”